Monument to Shaq Fu Puzzles Chinese Residents

Hmm. I get the impression that the LOS ANGELES TIMES’ Bill Plaschke isn’t a huge Shaquille O’Neal fan. Plaschke, in Beijing to sample the cuisine and cover the Olympics, wonders why the Chinese would erect a ginormous statute to honor the world’s most powerful genie.

Shaquille O'Neal Chinese statue

The answer, it seems, has nothing to do with the locals and everything to do with the property — Li Ning Sports Park — that sits adjacent to the monument to Shaq-tasticness:

This part of the area — filled with basketball courts and pingpong tables — is sponsored by Li Ning, a Chinese sportswear giant, sort of an Asian Nike.

The company is named after its founder, Li Ning, the former Olympic gold-medal gymnast who lighted the torch during the Beijing opening ceremony after floating fearlessly around the stadium. …

Li Ning commissioned the statue of Shaq two years ago after O’Neal signed a five-year endorsement deal.

“We chose O’Neal based on his influence and expertise in basketball,” Li said at the time. “Our cooperation will bring everything possible to China’s basketball fans.”

Apparently, the people who patronize the park are less impressed by the statue than Li Ning.

“I walk past him every day and I think, he is just so-so,” said playground player Lei Shi, 26, as he walked to his game. “We’re not sure why he’s here.” …

“Shaq is a good player, but, look here, he is little fat,” Chen Chen said.

It gets worse; calling Shaq chubby is one thing since, you know, he sorta is, but this has to hurt the big fella:

Kobe is younger, and that Shaq over there is fatter,” said Tony Zhang, 24. “Kobe is today. Shaq is too old.”

To recap: the Chinese hate O’Neal because he’s old and flabby and not Kobe. Sounds familiar. But Shaq can freestyle! Oh, wait…